In a significant development, 3M Co, a leading chemical company, has announced a groundbreaking $10.3 billion settlement with numerous public water systems across the United States.
The settlement aims to resolve water pollution claims associated with “forever chemicals” known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The company, which faces thousands of lawsuits related to PFAS contamination, emphasized that the funds will be provided over 13 years to cities, towns, and other public water systems.
The primary objective is to conduct comprehensive tests and implement effective treatment measures to combat PFAS contamination.
The Largest Drinking Water Settlement in American History
Settlement supports remediation efforts for PFAS-contaminated public water systems.
Scott Summy, a lead attorney representing the water systems involved in the lawsuit against 3M, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome, stating, “We have reached the largest drinking water settlement in American history, which will be used to help filter PFAS from drinking water that is served to the public.”
The allocated funds will play a crucial role in supporting remediation efforts at public water systems that detect any level of PFAS contamination.
Delay in Trial Signals Progress in Resolving PFAS Lawsuits
Test trial postponed in South Carolina federal court case brought by the city of Stuart, Florida
3M had been scheduled to face a test trial in a South Carolina federal court earlier this month due to a lawsuit filed by the city of Stuart, Florida.
However, the trial was unexpectedly delayed on the morning it was set to commence. Stuart claimed in its 2018 lawsuit that the company made or sold firefighting foams containing PFAS that polluted local soil and groundwater.
The city sought over $100 million in compensation for filtration and remediation measures.
This case was one among more than 4,000 lawsuits filed against 3M and other chemical companies regarding PFAS contamination.
The Persistence of “Forever Chemicals”
PFAS, resistant chemicals with far-reaching consequences
PFAS, commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” pose significant challenges as they do not easily break down in the human body or the environment.
These chemicals are extensively used in a wide range of products, including non-stick cookware and cosmetics. Scientific research has linked PFAS exposure to cancer, hormonal dysfunction, and environmental damage.
Urgent Action by the Environmental Protection Agency
EPA tightens regulations and sets national drinking water standards for PFAS
Recognizing the urgency of the issue, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified PFAS as an “urgent public health and environmental issue.”
In recent years, the EPA has taken several steps to tighten regulations concerning PFAS. Notably, in March, the agency introduced the first-ever national drinking water standards for six PFAS chemicals.
The company sets a deadline to cease PFAS production
As part of its commitment to environmental responsibility, 3M had previously declared its intention to cease PFAS production by 2025.
Industry-wide Impact: Settlements with Other Chemical Companies
Chemical industry takes steps to address PFAS contamination
In a related development, three other major chemical companies—Chemours Co, DuPont de Nemours Inc, and Corteva Inc—announced earlier this month that they have reached a preliminary agreement totaling $1.19 billion to settle claims involving the contamination of US public water systems with PFAS.
Ongoing Litigation: Lawsuits Beyond the Settlement
Individual and state lawsuits continue to address PFAS-related damages
Despite the recent settlement, 3M still faces PFAS-related lawsuits filed by individuals seeking compensation for personal injury and property damage.
Additionally, US states have filed lawsuits against 3M, primarily focusing on damages to natural resources such as rivers and lakes. These cases were not included in the recent settlement.
A Step Forward: Safeguarding Public Health and the Environment
The historic settlement addresses PFAS contamination and supports remediation efforts
The resolution reached by 3M represents a significant step forward in addressing the critical issues surrounding PFAS contamination and safeguarding public health.
The substantial financial contribution provided by the settlement will undoubtedly assist in the remediation efforts of public water systems throughout the United States, ultimately working toward a safer and cleaner environment for all.